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Remains of lost 1100 year-old city discovered in Yunnan

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The discovery of an ancient wall in Yunnan may be the first step in unearthing the remnants of a city once thought lost to history. Archeologists believe they have uncovered an important relic dating back more than 1,000 years — a vestige of a country independent from Chinese rule that scientists and historians still know few hard facts about.

The find was made in Dali Prefecture, roughly 50 kilometers southeast of Erhai Lake (洱海) in the tiny village of Dayin (大营村). Researchers from the Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology unearthed small sections of the wall earlier this month. He Jinlong (何金龙), who heads the project, believes his team has found the long-lost city of Baiya (白崖旧城).

Baiya means 'White Cliffs' in Chinese, and indeed the excavated area abuts a limestone escarpment in a somewhat remote and poor region of the prefecture. Archeologists have so far found what they believe is a contiguous wall between eight and fifteen centimeters thick, originally built from bricks and pounded earth.

He told reporters, "From what we've discovered of the city's size, location and distance [from other archeological sites], we can say with confidence this is the old city of Baiya." Very little is known about one-time urban center. However, it is mentioned in passing in the Tang Dynasty historical record An Introduction to Yunnan (云南志), penned 11 centuries ago by a scholar named Fan Shou (樊绰). The author, however, did not mention where exactly the city was located, and little else is known about its inhabitants or its rise and fall.

If the find is in fact Baiya, further excavations could produce new clues about daily life during the time of the Nanzhao Kingdom (南诏国). The small independent fiefdom spanned much of Yunnan 1,100 years ago. During its 200-year history, leaders of the Nanzhao gathered enough power to conquer territory in the present-day countries of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, while also repelling two separate invasion attempts by enormous Tang and Tibetan armies.

For He and his team, the discovery is a tantalizing one that could help flesh out how people lived in western Yunnan a millennia ago — but one they caution may take years to properly excavate, catalogue and describe. Before any of that can happen, He told reporters, a proper survey of the area must be completed in order to best begin digging for ancient buildings the team hopes lay buried but waiting.

Image: Prince Edward Island Archaeology

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Sounds like this could really be something.

We'll have to wait and see. News reports are pretty fuzzy, but the archeologists certainly seem excited.

Theres a missionary who witnessed end of Panthay rebellion. What he wrote is, that before Qing army arrived, Du Wenxiu hid/put all the treasures in a certain place. Now we are talking about treasures of whole Yunnan, as the Panthays were rampant all around. So theres still a lot to dig up around Dali soil. This is just a small cookie.

And the tomb of the Bai peoples "White King", while to some degree a legend, at least first protestant missionaries (Clark family) in Dali mentioned it. But its a mystery. Many mysteries and treasures around Dali. Still to appear. One of Buddhas teeth may also be in Dali - a legend almost totally forgotten - there used to be so many legends about this Buddhas tooth in Dali, all the way to Burma, (Glass Palace chronicle etc.). Some Dali monks know this legend, and say the tooth will show up when time is right. The tooth is a chakravati চক্রবর্তী by the way, i.e. whoever posesses it has the Heavens mandate to rule the world.

@peter99
Rumors have it as well that Indiana Jones has been sighted in Dali looking for the chakravati in order to keep it out of the hands of the Donald.

@Baimei

Yea, its said Roy Chapman Andrews was the "real Indiana Jones", and somewhere its also said that Indiana Jones character was based on him, and he DID visit Dali. Roy Andrews stayed in Yunnan for months, plenty in Dali - thats around 1920's. Just read his stories and compare it to the ganja trash today to get perspective. Roy Andrews influenced the US presidential family btw, and the Roosevelt family did a Yunnan expedition a bit later. All forgotten now. Jus like the Tooth of Buddha and the Treasure of Du Wenxiu.

ooh, :) interesting!

My translation of the portion of the Manshu regarding Baiya over here: en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Manshu/Chapter_5

Bái​yá​ City (白崖城; lit. 'White Cliff (Walled) City') is in Bó​lòng​chuān​ (勃弄川; lit. 'Flourishing Lane River-Plain'), which was loyal (to China) during the Tianbao era (ie. 742-756), and possesses cities and east-facing lands, and has five prefectures and cities in total.

It is built against the mountain to provide walled defence, with a height of 10 zhang (ie. 33m). All four sides channel water around the city, which only has gates opening to the north and south.

In the southern corner lies the old city, which is two li (ie. 700m) in circumference.

In the northeast corner lies the new city, which was newly built by Gé​luó​fèng​ (閣羅鳳) in the 7th year of the Dali reign (ie. ~778-779).

It is four li (ie. ~1.2km) in circumference.

Outside of the northern gate lies Cí​zhú​cóng​ (慈竹叢; lit. 'Merciful Bamboo Thicket'), each as thick as a man's lower leg, and 100 chǐ​ (ie. ~33m) in height.

Inside is the official reception building of Gé​luó​fèng​ (閣羅鳳), with decorated corridors and crooked halls. Behind the main hall lies a courtyard verdant with orange trees and a view over the northern wall.

Inside of the old city is a pond of over 300 paces' circumference, inside of which is a multi-storied building inside of which is said to be a stockpile of armour and weapons.

The river plain stretches more than 20 li (ie. ~6.5km) east to west, and more than 100 li (ie. ~33km) north to south.

Beneath the Qīng​píng​guān​ (清平官; lit. 'Site of just and peaceful governance'), the government divides the land in to fields, all of which are cultivated.

The numerous kin of Nán​zhào​ (南詔) also reside near the city.

20 li to the south lies Mán​zi​chéng​ (蠻子城; lit. 'the city of the Barbarian (or possibly Barbarian prince)'), which is the former residence of the many younger brothers and extensive family of Gé​luó​fèng​ (閣羅鳳).

Directly southward is Kāinán City (開南城), which is 11 days' journey.

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